t’s mid winter and we just returned home from an inspiring equity training followed by the comfort of our most relevant annual meeting to be gifted a calf to raise who the day before lost its mother because she was just too old and tired to do it again.
Ironic, as I pumped milk for the first time while we were gone. I’ve been pregnant or lactating for 15 years. Yes, you read that right, 15 years. My oldest children could (given a different place in history) be having children of their own while I still nurse a little one who circles our feet.
I’m old and tired too, like that mama cow, I suppose.
Nursing babies has been a hard row to hoe for me.
Balancing work and home life while giving off the appearance of stay at home mom. Jaundice and lip ties and colic and low birth rates to start it all off. Sweating bullets in public while my babies cried out in hunger until I could find a private place to feed them. Advocating for the rights of public feeding and workplace wellness before it was cool and Target had shelves of materials to consume.
All in all, I’m reminded that even amongst the physical pain and long nights and years of babies in tow, I’m privileged. Many were never given this chance. Either by early inductions where baby wasn’t ready to latch or the influence of formula companies on policy and procedure or judgement by race, origin, religion and marital status many women aren’t given the privilege of hardship that breastfeeding brings.
Like that old mama cow I’ve given of my mental, spiritual and physical self to these five children in such a way that no matter what the rest of my life holds I might die in a sort of peace that pouring yourself out brings.
I look at this calf, that during gestation and birth his mama was his everything, but now she’s gone and I’m reminded how we all need one another in ways we’ve forgotten.
My hope is that my work, my compassion for all mamas, no matter how they fed or cared or taught their children has shown through. Because being a mama is hard, but good, but nearly impossible, but sacred all at the same time.
This is a portrait of Michelle Howell, a hardworking farmwife, mother of five, author, and advocate. On the left side of the bust you can read text from the poem “Anyway” that was on a wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. “If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” “The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.”
Leslie Nichols, Artist